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The Welsh government has announced a two-week fire break to tackle rising infection rates.
The Welsh government has announced a two-week “fire-break” across Wales at the end of this week to help regain control of the rising coronavirus rate.
The fire-break will start at 6pm on Friday and end on Monday 9th November. It will apply to everyone living in Wales and will replace the local restrictions which are in force in some parts of the country.
The Welsh Government says it will provide a package of almost £300 million to support businesses, which will complement wage-support schemes available from the UK government.
The fire-break means people in Wales will have to work from home wherever possible. Most people will have to stay at home and households will not be able to mix except with their extended bubble. All non-food retail, hospitality businesses, including cafes, restaurants and pubs (unless they provide take-away or delivery services), close contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, and events and tourism businesses, such as hotels will have to close and masks will be compulsory in all indoor public spaces. Primary and special schools will remain open, but secondary schools will only open for the most vulnerable children and those in years seven and eight. Other students will learn online. Universities will provide a blend of in-person and online learning. Local parks, playgrounds and outdoor gyms will remain open.
Following the end of the fire-break, a new set of rules will be introduced for Wales.
The £300 million business support fund will open next week and includes a £1,000 payment for every business covered by the small business rates relief . Small and medium-sized retail, leisure and hospitality businesses, which have to close will receive a one-off payment of up to £5,000. There will also be additional discretionary grants and support for struggling smaller businesses. Moreover, the £80 million fund announced last week to help businesses develop in the longer term, will be increased to £100 million, which includes £20 million ring-fenced for tourism and hospitality.
Businesses will also be able to access the support available through the existing Job Retention Scheme or the new expanded Job Support Scheme for those employees not able to work due to coronavirus restrictions.
Northern Ireland began a four-week circuit breaker on Friday as infection rates rise. This contrasts with England’s localised response to infection rates. In Northern Ireland, schools will shut for two weeks, including the half term week and this will be reviewed on 2nd November.
Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula, said businesses could access the furlough scheme before it closes on 31st October if they have used it before and may also be able to use the new Job Support Scheme from 1st November if staff are able to work reduced hours.
She stated: “The fact that this so-called circuit break lockdown is scheduled for half term may help to mitigate the impact of staff needing to facilitate childcare, with many of them likely already having done so in preparation for this. Furthermore, while only children up to the age of year eight will return in the second week of this lockdown, this is likely to reflect the fact that older children will be in a better position to look after themselves. That said, it is essential to remember that previously made plans for childcare may need to change due to the new rules. There is no doubt that childcare issues are still likely, and employers will need to consider flexibility, and legal rights afforded to parents, over this period.”